In Erzin county in Turkey, despite the two earthquakes, not a single building collapsed. The Economist reported that ‘the local mayor and his predecessor told local media that they did not allow any illegal construction. Both used the same phrase: “My conscience is clear.”‘1. Another theory is that the geology of that area is different from more damaged places. Perhaps the answer is a complex mix of factors; or perhaps integrity was enough.
Lots of press commentary implies that, though Turkey has strict building codes, a little informal negotiation with local officials usually meant you could reinforce your steel with less iron or add another floor or two. These were the buildings that fell like concrete Jenga blocks on their sleeping tenants.
Was that evil? And is ‘evil’ (if it exists) the reason lots of hopeful optimism about the benefits of reason and technology are overstated or misplaced? If people were reasonable, and if we got the tech right, perhaps we could build buildings on earthquake zones that didn’t fall down. But as soon as developers suck their teeth, and bend a bit, and hand over some cash, and ease down on what are very restrictive and expensive rules, which shut out ordinary people from buying homes at reasonable prices…
We are all of us suspects in these crimes. What do any of us do when (as we think) an overfussy law stands inconveniently in our way? When does a little flexing and bending, or even a little transgressing, become ‘evil’? Food for thought.